Image by @bec.grintell
A Complete Breed Guide for Greyhound Dogs
This article is written by Pet Circle's veterinarian,
Originally bred to be noble hounds of pharoahs in ancient Egypt, the Greyhound is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Well known for their unrivalled speed, Greyhounds are able to run as fast as 70km per hour. This makes them not only the fastest dog breed, but one of the fastest animals in the world! Agility aside, these loveable, placid 'long bois' are incredibly gentle with humans and make surprisingly lazy 'couch potato' pets.
Just a few long bois...
|Place of origin:
|Ancient Egypt (possibly)
|Tendency to bark:
|10 to 14 years
|65-75cm to shoulder
|Ease of training:
|Overall grooming needs:
|Black, Fawn, Brindle, Fallow, Red, White, or any mixture of these
How fast can a greyhound run?
Up to 72km/h. Greyounds are considered the fastest dog breed due to their instantaneous acceleration.
How long do greyhounds live?
The lifespan of a greyhound tends to be from 10-14 years of age, however they can live to be over 15!
Do greyhounds have to be muzzled?
While some greyhounds can be trusted around small animals, it is actually the law in many states to keep them muzzled in certain situations. For example, in NSW a Greyhound is required to wear a dog muzzle in off-leash areas at all times. Read more here.
Are greyhounds good pets?
Greyhounds can make wonderful pets. They are relaxed, gentle, affectionate (and actually rather lazy!) dogs who are great with most children - particularly those over 8 years of age. If Greyhounds are socialised properly as puppies, they can make great family pets, but will need to be exposed and socialised with smaller pets due to their strong chase instinct.
Do greyhounds shed hair?
Greyhounds shed a moderate amount of fur. They have a relatively low-maintenance short coat, however shedding can increase during seasonal changes. Try to brush their coat regularly with a soft bristle brush to keep their coat healthy and to reduce the amount of shedding.
Do greyhounds bark?
In most cases, greyhounds do not bark much. However, they may bark when playing or when they are around other greyhounds. They are quite a placid breed but if they seem restless, a good walk each morning can help reduce problem barking.
How much exercise do greyhounds need?
You might be surprised to learn that greyhounds aren't particularly active dogs. Known as 'couch potatoes', these placid dogs require about one hour of exercise per day to keep them happy.
Are greyhounds good for jogging?
Greyhounds are not best breed running buddies. Despite their record-breaking athletic ability, they don't love vigorous exercise as much as some other dogs. If you're an avid runner and want an athletic dog to accompany you, you'd be better off with a Border Collie, a Kelpie, or a mixed working breed from a rescue!
How big are greyhounds?
Greyhounds are bigger than you might think! The average weight of an adult greyhound is 27-30kg, and their height can range from 68-71cm in females and 71-76cm in males. That's almost the height of the average woman's hip!
Are greyhounds good with kids?
Greyhounds tend to be excellent with children because of their characteristic gentleness and tolerant attitude. A ex-racing greyhound has usually been around people all of its life and is usually quite people-oriented. That said, a very boisterous toddler is best supervised around a greyhound due to their chasing instinct.
Art depicting greyhound-resembling dogs have been found in the tombs of Ancient Egypt. Image credit: animalsaustralia.org
The Greyhound is an ancient dog breed which has been around for thousands of years, but its true origins aren't totally clear. Dogs appearing to resemble Greyhounds have been observed in Egyptian art from 4,000 BCE. These hounds of the pharaohs were bred to detect, chase, and capture wildlife in the dessert. However, others believe the Greyhound may have originated in ancient Greece, Africa, Turkey or the Middle East.
Wherever they came from originally, the Greyhound made its way to Europe in the middle ages and was widely considered a 'noble hound'. In England around the 11th Century, only nobles and royalty were permitted to own a Greyhound, and killing of one was totally forbidden. Greyhounds were considered a 'status symbol' and were used for hare and fox hunting. King Henry VII and Charles V of France both had Greyhounds on their coats of arms.
Eventually, thanks to their incredible speed, these hounds were used for racing. Today, they are still used for racing, but are also a popular family pet due to their placid, loveable nature. Due to cruelties observed in the racing industry, many Greyhound-specific animal charities such as Gumtree Greys are set up to rehome ex-racing Greyhounds deemed 'too slow' or 'past their peak'. Read our article 10 Reasons to Adopt A Greyhound for more info about why these guys make amazing pets.
Image by @cassmaria83
Greyhounds are placid, well-mannered, loving, sweet, and independent. They make wonderful family pets in the right househould. Known for being a little timid, this breed likes to live in a calm household and may need some gentle socialising in order to gain confidence.
Despite their intense athletic skill, these dogs are surprisingly lazy and enjoy the 'couch potato' lifestyle. An hour walk in the morning is plenty - and you can look elsewhere for long-distance running buddy!
There are so many types of toys that will suit a greyhound! As natural couch potatoes, greyhounds love snuggling up with a cushy teddy, so a range of plush toys will be a huge success. Dental toys are also great for the greyhound as they are very prone to dental disease and can use all the help they can get!
Image by @oslo.the.greyhound
Perfect for Greyhounds due to their predisposition to develop dental disease, this super tough chew toy is flavoured to encourage gnawing and grinding.
Perfect for chase-keen dogs like the Greyhound, The iFetch will continue to shoot tennis balls as long as your dog fetches them and returns them to the top of the chute.
An extra long ball thrower to help you launch your Greyhound's ball further than ever before to satisfy those intense fetch cravings!
Plush toys are great for indoor couch potatoes. Greyhounds can chew on soft toys all day, and this teddy contains a rope inside to make it extra chewable!
What to expect in an ex-racing Greyhound
If you are adopting an ex-racing greyhound, there are a few things to be aware of. Your Greyhound may not have experience living indoors or enjoying the lifestyle of a pet, and may require a gentle introduction to this new life. They may find some types of beds strange, and may not be used to glass (so try to leave some visual markers on glass doors and windows for the first few weeks). It's also important to be aware of their tendency to chase small animals, which brings us to our next point...
Photo credit: @kevsmarvelousadventure
Can ex-racing Greyhounds live with cats?
Racing Greyhounds are trained to chase small animals, and may not be able to shake this habit. A dog leash is essential when out walking, and a non-restrictive muzzle is sometimes required to ensure your dog cannot harm small dogs or other animals. However, approximately 75% of Greyhounds can be rehabilitated and trained to live with indoor house cats if proper supervision is provided during the training process. But because prey drive is so much stronger outside than inside, we don't recommend adopting an ex-racing Greyhound if you have an outdoor roaming cat.
Image by @bec.grintell
Although adult greyhounds are much more commonly available for adoption, greyhound puppies are sometimes up for adoption. Some points to note about greyhound puppy ownership are outlined below:
What should you feed a Greyhound?
If your Greyhound is kept as a family pet, rather than a racing dog, and they receive less than 1-2 hour of exercise per day, they will be fine to receive a premium 'puppy', 'adult', or 'senior' pet food designed for 'large' or 'all breeds'. Always be sure to seek a high quality diet, as this can help keep your Greyhound's coat soft, healthy, and shiny. Many greyhound owners like to seek a dental care diet, due to the greyhound's predisposition to developing dental disease.
However, if your greyhound is a racing dog or completing high levels of exercise every day, a 'high performance' diet with higher calorie content might be the way to go. Great examples include Eukanuba Premium Performance or Hill's Science Diet Active.
Top Recommended Food for Adult Greyhounds in Australia
There are so many great diets available in Australia for greyhounds, and the ideal choice depends on your dog's activity level, age, and lifestyle - as well as your personal preference. There are many premium brands made in Australia which produce excellent natural formulas, including Advance, Ivory Coat, and Instinctive Bite. Our top recommendations for adult greyhounds include:
Grain free and made in Australia, this kangaroo-based diet is a great general diet for retired adult Greyhounds.
Specifically designed for large mouths, this dental care diet can help keep your Greyhound's mouth free from tartar.
Ziwi Peak recipes are grain free and high in meat content. Ideal as a tasty topper due to its strong smell and high palatability.
Specifically designed for highly active dogs, this dry food is great for Greyhounds who race.
Image by @bec.grintell
In general, Greyhounds have a fairly hardy constitution, however they are prone to health conditions. Some of these may be due to their genetics, and some are due to the lifestyle usually associated with racing. Some of these conditions are:
Dental Disease is incredibly common in Greyhounds, particularly in ex-racers, as they are rarely afforded adequate dental care in the racing industry. If you are adopting an ex-racing Greyhound, expect to have a dental scale and polish done at your vet, and be prepared to maintain their teeth with regular tooth brushing, dental chews, or a dental care food.
Gastric Torsion and Bloat (GDV)
Gastric Torsion and Bloat - Also known as 'Gastric Dilation and Volvulus' (GDV), this condition is common in large breeds with deep chests. It occurs when the stomach twists, trapping the contents and gases within. As the stomach expands and balloons, it leads to extreme pain and even death if not treated. GDV is a medical emergency and requires urgent veterinary attention.
How to reduce the risk of Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV / Bloat) in Greyhounds
- Consider stomach tacking surgery - a preventative procedure which effectively fixes your dog's stomach in place
- Slow down your dog's eating. Consider using an 'anti-gulp' bowl.
- Don't use an elevated food bowl
- Avoid exercising your dog an hour before and after eating
- Serve your dog multiple meals in small portions during the day, rather than one large meal.
- Always keep fresh water accessible
Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma) is an aggressive form of bone cancer. Greyhounds have a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma compared to other breeds, and the cancer typically affects one of the legs. Osteosarcoma in dogs requires aggressive treatment including amputation or chemotherapy, in order to prevent it being fatal. The first sign of osteosarcoma is limping, so don't hesitate to bring your dog to the vet if they become lame.
Like all other sighthounds, most Greyhounds are sensitive to anesthesia. Doses of anesthesia that would be normal for another dog may kill a Greyhound. Why this occurs is not totally understood; it may be due to their low body fat, or it could be due to a genetic component. Always make sure your veterinarian is aware of the breed's sensitivity to anesthesia before undergoing any kind of treatment.
Unique Blood Parameters
Greyhounds are quite a unique breed physiologically, as many of their 'normal' blood test parameters differ to other breeds of dogs. Normal, healthy Greyhounds usually have low platelets, low white blood cells, high haematocrit, and low thyroid hormone compared to other breeds. Make sure your veterinarian is familiar with these anomalies of the Greyhound. These can be viewed in detail here: The Clinical Pathology of The Greyhound and Slight Hounds.
Von Willebrand's Disease
Von Willebrand's Disease is a common genetic bleeding disorder caused by an inherited inability of the platelets to stick to and seal damaged blood vessels. This condition results in excessive bleeding after tissue trauma or after surgery. The deficient protein is called 'von Willebrand factor antigen', hence the name. Your vet will be able to test for this prior to completing surgery.
Sensitivity to the Cold
While not technically a 'health concern', but worth being aware of is the Greyhound's lack of tolerance to cold temperatures. Due to their lack of body fat, thin skin, and sparse fur, the Greyhound doesn't tolerate low temperatures well. Rug your Greyhound up with a nice warm Dog Jumper when temperatures dip!
The Best Jumpers for Greyhounds
Getting a sweater (or two, or more!) for your greyhound is a fantastic idea due to their sensitivity to the cold and short fur. When looking for a coat for a greyhound, it's best to look for stretchy ones that accomodate their deep chest and long necks.
Image by @cassmaria83
Made specially for Greyhounds, these super plush, lightweight jumpers are designed to keep long necks and legs toasty warm.
Available in a range of prints, these too-cute-for-words pyjamas are cuddly and cover the legs for extra warmth.
Excellent for walks on a cold day, a waterproof jacket is a must for your Greyhound's wardrobe.
Types of Greyhounds
Greyhounds belong to a group of dogs called Sighthounds. Also called gazehounds, sighthounds are a type of hound that hunt primarily by sight and speed, rather than by scent. As well as the classic Greyhound, you can find other large breeds such as the Borzoi and Afghan Hound in this group as well as a couple of miniature cousins including the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound.
Whippet size: 45-56cm tall, 11-18kg bodyweight
The Whippet was bred as a smaller version of the Greyhound, with the intention of creating a sight hound that was easier to house and cheaper to feed. Popular with coal miners in the Northern areas of England, they earned the nickname 'poor man's racehorse' due to the popularity of races.
The Italian Greyhound
Italian Greyhound size: 32-38cm tall, 3.6-4.5kg bodyweight
The pint-sized Italian Greyhound has an ancient lineage, believed to have been introduced to the Mediterranean region around 600 BC by the Romans. Italian Greyhounds rose in popularity in southern Europe throughout the Middle Ages and became well-known as companion dogs with notable owners including Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria!.